By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Carboplatin is a chemotherapy agent used in the treatment of certain types of cancer. Carboplatin is one of the platinum anti-cancer compounds and its parent compound is cisplatin. Carboplatin has gained significant popularity since its introduction in the 1980s because it causes less side effects than cisplatin.
Mechanism of action
Carboplatin forms intra- and inter-strand crosslinks within the cell. This modifies the DNA structure and stops DNA synthesis. This may affect a cell in all the phases of its cycle, rather than only the phase when it is actively synthesizing DNA.
Carboplatin is given as an intravenous infusion over half an hour to 1 hour, which is usually performed as a day care procedure or during a short stay at hospital. The drip is usually run through a pump to ensure the medication is given over a set period of time.
The carboplatin is usually administered to a vein in the arm using a cannula or if the site of administration is a large vein in the neck, a central venous catheter is used. Patients may have an implantable venous access port embedded under their skin, which is used in cases where intravenous treatment is used in the long-term.
Uses of carboplatin
Carboplatin was developed in the late 1980s at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. The drug was approved by the FDA under the name Paraplatin in March 1989 and became available as a generic drug after October 2004.
Carboplatin is mainly used to treat ovarian cancer and lung cancer. Other forms of cancer where carboplatin may be indicated include cancers of the head and neck, breast, cervix, esophagus, breast, bladder and central nervous system. It may also be used to prepare a patient for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
Carboplatin is usually administered over a course of several treatment cycles but the treatment plan depends on the type of cancer a patient has. Usually, the treatment is given as a day care procedure, after which the patient can be discharged.
Some examples of the side effects that occur with carboplatin treatment include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth ulcers and loss of appetite
- Bone marrow suppression leading to anemia, low platelet counts leading to bleeding tendency and low white blood cell counts leading to increased susceptibility to infection.
- Kidney and liver function may be affected
- Hearing loss may be seen, especially in children receiving the therapy
- Hair loss (this is usually regained after completion of therapy)
- Rarely, allergic reactions occur such as skin rashes, itching, fever and shivering. If any of these symptoms occur, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Oct 8, 2014